The spouses of Parliament. By that, the Telegraph means husbands of female MPs

The Telegraph reports on a Grazia magazine feature about “husbands of politicians.” It’s interesting because it captures some of the preconceived ideas we have about gender roles and stereotypes. And also because it features two people well known to us, Duncan Hames and Andrew Poole, Jenny Willott’s husband. It encapsulates the sacrifices that both Members of Parliament and their families have to make.

Duncan said that people are more likely to talk to Jo about their baby son:

After Andrew was born, the only thing anyone in Jo’s constituency wanted to talk to her about was the baby – and for me it was just nice if anyone did! When I first went door-knocking with him, typically, if a woman answered you’d have a conversation about parenthood [but] there were a few men who kept their gaze firmly at eye level, just did their best to have this conversation as if the baby wasn’t there,” he recalls.

Duncan hopes that by trying to parent equally, they’ve paved the way for other couples.

“There are probably a lot of workplaces where, if dads take time out for things like children’s doctors’ appointments, there’ll be the underlying assumption: ‘Isn’t that what a mother does?’ It’s one of the barriers to equality. So those of us who don’t fear the consequences of doing this are, I hope, helping others by doing so.”

Andrew Poole describes how he and Jenny manage their time:

“But we didn’t plan ahead [for her being an MP] because you can’t be sure, so it was just this thing we both knew was on the horizon that was life-changing. My role for her is enabling her to do the job, providing the stability and flexibility. But it’s a partnership.”

The family spends Sunday night to Thursday in London together. “But on a Friday I’ll be the single parent with Toby in London, where Jen will be the single parent with Josh in the constituency 160 miles away. A lot of my role is just to make sure life is as normal for the kids as possible.

You can read the whole article, which also features Caroline Flint’s husband,  here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • Duncan makes a good point. There is an assumption – reinforced by such things as the non-equal distribution of maternity/paternity leave – that men who want to balance their family responsibilities with work are somehow not committed to their careers, and they’re looked down on for it.

  • “Looked down on for it” ==> Maybe by their bosses but not by their peers. Most people I know think very highly of fathers who cut their hours back to bring up children. Many fathers I know wish they could be doing it themselves.

    As for bosses, well, of course they would look down on someone who puts other things before their job.

  • It’s interesting that MPs who are parents and female are often asked “How do you cope” etc, yet the same question is never asked of a male MP who’s a parent.

  • I was wondering where the paragraph about how the husbands were dressed and how they had done their hair had gone, isn’t that normal for any article for political wives?

  • peter tyzack 22nd Apr '15 - 12:12pm

    and some pretty strange reactions I got from other parents when I was a single parent.. in fact I could never be sure what they were thinking, as nothing was ever said. Come school holidays(as I was a teacher at the time), half the kids of the village would be playing in my garden and at the kitchen door for biscuits and squash, but when I needed to go back into work for a parents evening, do you think I could find a willing sitter?!?!

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